Topic Analysis: January 2014 and the Sahel region

January 2014 Resolved: Development assistance should be prioritized over military aid in the Sahel region of Africa.

The central word to this resolution is prioritized. This places this topic in a “when in conflict” debate. 

This phrase signifies that you are not arguing one side is wrong or incorrect. This resolution asks about priority, or which side has the better option. This resolution is about preference. You are imagining, for example, that you have $100 dollars to spend and you can spend it on one of two good options. Which do you choose? In order to answer that question you need to identify the overlapping values between the policies and the values that are unique to each side. Often this involves prioritizing the environment over the economy. Both affect people’s lives, but furthermore each has independent values such as impact on ecosystems and impact on employment. Obviously values can overlap, but they tend to be stronger on one side of the debate.

There is an ongoing crisis in the Sahel region of Africa and it is not simple. It is a multifaceted crisis that ranges from food security to the threat of Al-Qaeda.  Let’s look at two different analyses about the crisis in the Sahel.

OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a statement in 2013 calling for specific aid to the Sahel region:

“UN agencies and humanitarian partners have appealed for over US$1.6 billion to help millions of people affected by the food and nutrition crisis, conflict and displacement across West Africa’s Sahel region…

The humanitarian community in the region is also calling for a more balanced response – one that will cover education, agriculture, health, water and sanitation needs. These sectors were seriously underfunded in 2012 affecting people’s ability to improve their lives.”

On the other hand, the Carnegie Endowment published a paper in 2012 titled “Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region” which addresses the issues of organized crime and the rise of al-Qaeda in the Sahel.

“For the past decade, increasing instability in the Sahel and Sahara region has been a source of growing concern in Europe and the United States. Western governments have worried that the weakness of state control in the area would allow al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (AQIM) and other jihadist organizations to expand their influence and establish safe havens in areas outside government control. Such fears appear to have been vindicated by the recent takeover of northern Mali by AQIM and organizations closely associated with it.

Western governments have focused heavily on AQIM’s presence, providing technical assistance in an attempt to strengthen the capacity of the security sectors and justice systems to combat the group.”

Both organizations address real needs in the Sahel, but which should be prioritized? January 2014 will come down to a Framework debate whether you like it or not. Check back next week for a discussion of Framework and specific values at play in the January 2014 topic.

As you research, note what types of values and goals your sources are addressing. No one solution is needed for the Sahel crisis so do not begin to argue there is one crisis. This debate is about the tools needed to address a small portion of the crisis. You must win that your tool (development assistance or military aid) and your goal (what aspect of the crisis you are addressing) should be prioritized.

Within prioritized there are competing values: cost, efficacy, goal, international support, need, etc etc. Make sure you are addressing these values as well in your Framework and case.

Best of luck as you begin researching for January!


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